Friday, August 28, 2009

County inking plans for McHanville

Hospital concerned over community housing ordinance


By JON DUVAL
Express Staff Writer

Blaine County continues to discuss plans for development in the McHanville area, located south of Ketchum around St. Luke’s Wood River Medical Center. The plan for the 90-acre area includes different zones for commercial, mixed-use, residential and affordable community housing units. Photo by David N. Seelig

Blaine County is drawing closer to a set of ordinances that would govern zoning in McHanville, a partly developed 90-acre area south of Ketchum.

County commissioners on Wednesday delved further into a proposed ordinance that would set community housing requirements for future development.

The creation of affordable community housing has been a major part of an existing master plan for the crescent-shaped wedge of land between St. Luke's Wood River Medical Center and state Highway 75. McHanville also includes the large undeveloped bench west of the hospital in the lower Cold Springs drainage and lands south of the highway traffic signal next to the hospital.

Today, the large area is a hodgepodge of residential, commercial and light-industrial development, both new and old, as well as large areas of undeveloped ground. Because most of it is zoned residential, many of the existing commercial uses are considered non-conforming. One of the primary ideas guiding the planning process is to make those uses conforming.

Under the plan being considered, the 90-acre area would be broken into different zones, some allowing commercial and residential uses, others just residential and some allowing residential and light industrial.

The community housing ordinance would provide incentives, allowing up to 15 units per acre, with the stipulation that 15 to 20 percent of the units be restricted as affordable community housing, either for rent or sale. Current zoning allows developers to exceed allowed density—one unit per acre in most of the area—to 10 units per acre with the inclusion of community housing.

Blaine County Regional Planner Jeff Adams said 600 to 800 total units are projected for the area, with about 100 of those dedicated community housing.

Adams said he thinks the community housing ordinance could be finalized and approved by the end of September. However, a potential stumbling block could be reluctance on the part of St. Luke's to support the ordinance.

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At Wednesday's meeting, hospital CEO Bruce Jensen said employees at the Wood River location receive a 13 percent "pay differential" compared to their Boise counterparts to help with the higher cost of living in Blaine County. Because of that, Jensen argued, the hospital shouldn't have to provide community housing in case it wants to expand beyond allowed density.

While the commissioners expressed concern about allowing the hospital to essentially use its higher pay scale as an in-lieu payment for housing, they did sympathize with Jensen, noting that the hospital does provide a huge benefit to the public.

Adams said another issue posing a significant obstacle is the operation of a wastewater treatment plant used solely by The Meadows subdivision south of the hospital.

Adams said that while developments north of the traffic signal on the highway directly in front of the hospital would be able to hook into the Ketchum-Sun Valley Wastewater Treatment Plant near the Elkhorn Road intersection, those to the south would likely need to use The Meadows' plant. According to Adams, that would largely depend on an agreement with the plant owners, including local development company the Kirk Group.

The commission is scheduled to consider the ordinance at a meeting on Thursday, Sept. 17.

Jon Duval: jduval@mtexpress.com




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